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'Why is Lahore under siege?' — politicians react to crackdown ahead of Nawaz, Maryam's return

Updated July 13, 2018

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PML-N supporters chant at a rally in Peshawar on Friday. — AP
PML-N supporters chant at a rally in Peshawar on Friday. — AP

As the country braced for ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam's return to the country and the start of their respective jail terms, politicians belonging to various political parties took to Twitter to react to the PML-N duo's homecoming.

While some political leaders condemned the crackdown by authorities in Punjab on PML-N workers gearing up to welcome their ousted leader, others termed Sharif's return a good omen for the country.

'Two wrongs don’t beget a right'

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a tweet criticised the arrest of scores of PML-N workers ahead of Sharif's scheduled arrival, arguing that the "right to peaceful protest is fundamental for democracy".

"[I] Understand the legal grounds for arrest of MNS [Mian Nawaz Sharif] after NAB conviction but on what grounds are workers and leaders being arrested? Why is Lahore under siege?" he asked.

Leader of Opposition in the Senate and PPP stalwart Sherry Rehman agreed with her party's chairman, saying she is against crackdowns on political activists and/or the blocking of peaceful protests.

The clampdown, she argued, will "breed more Gullu Butts and more martyrdom narratives".

Imran smells a rat

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders Naeemul Haque and Shireen Mazari agreed that the arrest of PML-N workers by the dozen just weeks ahead of the polls will not help anyone.

Haque said the "overreaction" by the caretaker Punjab government to Sharif's arrival reminded him of "what PML-N govt did to PTI workers before every big protest".

"The arrests of political workers on a mass scale coming just before elections can be counterproductive," he wrote.

Mazari for her part said arresting political workers during the crackdown was "so unnecessary".

In contrast, PTI supremo Imran Khan set out on an entirely different dimension to assess the status quo.

He wondered whether it was "mere coincidence" that whenever Nawaz Sharif is in trouble, there is increasing tension along Pakistan's borders and a rise in terrorist incidents.

PTI's official Twitter page meanwhile observed that while it is Friday the 13th today, Sharif's arrival will be a good omen for Pakistan. An accompanying graphic depicting Sharif behind the bars read "chor aya [the thief arrives]"

'The nation stands with Nawaz Sharif'

PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif in a tweet condemned the crackdown on his party's activists, alleging that the "caretakers have become undertakes [sic]".

He said the party's workers were determined to cross all barriers set up by authorities.

The PML-N official Twitter page meanwhile posted a photo of Sharif and Maryam with the accompanying caption: "The nation stands with Nawaz Sharif."